Today’s guest blog post is written by Bradley Jobling. Jobling created the social media program for the Columbia University Medical Center Department of Surgery. He has fifteen years of experience in Internet strategy and online marketing projects. Project work has involved the advertising, media and health care industries.
by Bradley Jobling (@BradJobling)
For years I have billed myself as an Internet geek with an MBA, yet I wasn’t that techie. I still prefer to do things in person or over the phone rather than through email. When it came to discussion boards and online communities, I just felt like never had the time.
When I was asked to work with our surgery department to come up with their social media program, I liked the idea of pioneering a new concept, but since this was cardiac surgery, breast cancer, liver transplants, and pancreatic cancer, I just couldn’t necessarily see these topics on Facebook and Twitter. It didn’t help that my exposure to this department before this was limited to the surgical videos that were edited in the A/V department. The clips were not for the squeamish, and certainly not for a Facebook page.
But, I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong that the surgical videos wouldn’t look good on Facebook, as they never would. I was wrong that there wasn’t a place for cardiac surgery, liver transplants or lung surgery in social media. I didnt know about the e-patients who use the Internet, social media, and hospital web pages for information, education and support.
My initial contact with an e-patient was a gentleman who would bring his father for pancreatic cancer treatment, fromPhiladelphia to New York. He would tweet on his way into the city. Then on his way home, he would tweet how wonderful the visit had been, using the doctor’s name. This felt good to me as I could tell my manager I was doing my job, people were saying stuff about us online and this social media “stuff” was working.
My second e-patient experience was someone who contacted me from one of our transplant support groups. This patient seemed to be blogging as a form of therapy. He would talk about the ups and downs of taking the immunosuppressant therapy. I later found out this patient was trying to get one of our supports group to connect online when they weren’t meeting in person.
One of our social workers created an online support group as part of her doctoral thesis. Ten patients would log inevery Mondayto chat about the weekly reading. One of the group members was a 92 year old woman fromIsraelwho didn’t know how to type. This woman’s granddaughter would read the lines of text to her grandmother and reply back with whatever her grandmother said.
One of the more connected experiences I encountered with one of our e-patients was an LVAD recipient who contacted me soon after I set up our Facebook page. I thought it was amazing how he would rave about our doctors on his blog, a marketer’s dream.
Later on, I had the opportunity to speak with this patient on the phone to hear to his whole story. He was always a techie, but started using his blog to communicate his condition to his family members after his heart attack. It was easier for him to write it down once rather than repeat the same news many times over to each family member and friend. The notoriety he has gained from his blog earned he and his wife a tour of the LVAD device’s company headquarters where he shared the patients’ perspective on how to improve the next generation of LVAD devices.
Last week this patient had a post on another LVAD recipient friend who had to have an emergency procedure to replace his LVAD due to a clot stuck in one of the mechanisms. The next day our patient was also rushed to the hospital with warning error requiring his LVAD to be replaced in an emergency procedure. I felt for this patient who had become an online friend.
Doing all of this under the Department of Surgery banner I feel honored to be an online friend to these people. I am rarely in the same room when the doctors and patients are together. Yet, I cherish the stories and experiences they share with me. It’s nothing short of fantastic. I hear of their successes, empathize with their setbacks, and in a few cases help them navigate the hospital issues that come up on our end.
So social media and cardiac surgery works. After my initial inability to see this and my concerns with the dry scientific content, I might have never known about the e-patients and their heroic and wonderful stories.